Having my alma mater in the nation's best basketball conference has been a blast.
When you win a Big East game, you know you've earned a victory. When you lose one, especially on the road, you usually can accept that you've fallen to a quality opponent. Come the NCAA tournament, you know your team has been tested in battle.
When I attended Marquette eons ago, we were an independent. Then we bounced around from the Midwestern Collegiate Conference to the Great Midwest to Conference USA ... before finally, gloriously, landing in the Big East in 2005.
Notre Dame, our old rival, was there waiting for us. New rivalries would be forged against the likes of Louisville, Syracuse, West Virginia and Pitt.
Oh well ...
Notre Dame is leaving, taking all of its sports except football to the ACC. Syracuse, Pitt and Louisville also are ACC bound. West Virginia already is in the Big 12. And the carnage is nowhere near complete, as UConn and Cincinnati are desperate to join top football conferences -- something the Big East never was.
No, the Big East was born as a basketball league in 1979, with charter members Georgetown, Syracuse, St. John's, Providence, Boston College, UConn and Seton Hall. Villanova joined a year later and Pitt came along in 1982 -- the same year the conference actually rejected Penn State's application for membership.
The conference came into power as Georgetown, Syracuse and St. John's fielded superior teams and ESPN became a media force.
There would be more expansion as football money grew, with Rutgers, Miami, Virginia Tech and West Virginia coming in. By the middle of last decade, however, a tug-of-war between football schools and basketball-only schools resulted in a big shakeup.
Out went Virginia Tech, Boston College and Miami. In came Louisville, South Florida, Cincinnati, DePaul and Marquette. About half the conference members fielded football teams and half didn't. Notre Dame, meanwhile, famously remains independent in football.
Football never really took root in the conference, and the fact that the basketball has been consistently sublime carried the day only so long. Football money just became to great to ignore, and Big East schools got swept up in the ongoing farce I call Conferences Gone Wild.
Trying to fill its many holes, the Big East has been signing up the likes of Boise State, San Diego State, SMU, Houston, Memphis, Temple, Navy and Central Florida. Just this week, Tulane and East Carolina were added. Some of those schools will be football-only members; some will compete in all sports. There already is talk that Boise State and San Diego State want to quit on the Big East before they even start playing conference games.
What a mess.
When everything shakes out in a year or two, the Big East will be an awful football conference with no chance of being in the national championship picture.
Sadly, it also will be only mediocre in basketball.
The only real hope for my beloved alma mater is that we team up with the Georgetowns, Villanovas and St. John'ses to form a good basketball-only league. Maybe it will have to merge with the Atlantic 10, which has bulked up with the likes of Xavier and Butler in recent years. Maybe it will have to steal a school like Creighton from the Missouri Valley.
In today's landscape, TV money doesn't follow basketball the same way it follows football, but a basketball superconference like that would be hard to ignore.
Whatever happens, I'm going to enjoy the last year or two of being in a great basketball conference. It's been a hell of a fun ride.